Too many hours on the Coker can lead my mind down many philosophical paths, especially when the 125 mm cranks put many real paths out of bounds.
For example: this forum raises epistemological questions - questions about the nature of knowledge, and what we can actually know. How do any of you know that I exist at all? If indeed, any of you exist… Clearly someone is writing this, unless you’re imagining reading it, but how do you know I really have done the rides that I’ve written up over the last year or two? A few of you (Unicus, Onewheeldave, Arnold the Aardvark, and a few others) have met me, but have you met them? And they never saw me do the rides.
But there’s more to philosophy than the old 6th form question, “Ah, but how do you know this is a table/ I owe you a beer/ I won’t respect you in the morning?” Read on:
If we are to believe Plato, Socrates believed that virtue was a kind of knowledge. He argued that no man would knowingly do something wrong. Therefore, if a man did something wrong, it was because he was deficient in the knowledge of what was right. A modern comparison can be made with my ex wife who argued that no man could do anything right, knowingly or otherwise.
Of course, Socrates’ theory leaves open the question of how something can be objectively right or wrong; and if it is, how can we know?
Sartre (a particularly contemplative cheese eating surrender monkey) looked at the argument in a different way. He believed that each man did what he thought was justified in the circumstances. Man is a rationalising animal (rather than a rational animal) and can come up with a superficially valid justification for almost anything. It is never possible to know exactly how someone reaches a decision, because our motives are multi-layered (c.f. Shrek: “Ogres are like onions”) and sometimes hidden even from ourselves, so we can only judge a man by what he decides, and we can only tell what he decides by what he actually does.
This contrasts with Milligan’s concept of the hero with coward’s legs.
So, here’s me riding around the big lake this evening. It’s been a bad day at work (maintaining an unbroken record of bad days at work over 22 years) and the beautiful weather which grinned maliciously in through the office window all day became a scowling brat of rain and chill winds by the time I left. Uninspired, I decide simply to get some miles in… and perhaps to do the 25 miles without a dismount.
I make it to the lake without incident, except that the path is blocked with deep puddles in many places and, try as I might, I can’t avoid getting a soaking. A Coker wheel in a puddle is like a water wheel in reverse, the water extracting the energy from the wheel as it is thrown up into the millstream of the rider’s backside.
Onto the lake side, and I make the first lap in pretty good time; Part way round the second lap (each lap is around 3 miles) I’m in my stride, but starting to feel the pressure on the seat. By the start of the third lap, my legs are starting to feel the strain. I’ve been “in the zone” and pedalling a little faster than I should.
So, the existentialism starts to bite in lap three. The internal dialogue starts:
You don’t have to do this.
No, but I can’t stop now.
You’ve done about 10 miles. It would be a pity to waste that.
Yes, but that means I’ve as far to go again - and then some.
You know you can do it.
So, if I know, why do I have to prove it?
It’s a challenge.
A pretty pointless one.
Yes, but all unicycling is pointless.
Look, this is one of those cases where I have to grit my teeth and push on. I’m bound to have a low point in a long ride.
But why have a low point when you’re only doing it for fun.
But the fun comes from the achievement.
Pretty daft sort of fun. If I didn’t have these short cranks on, I could be achieving some obstacles, instead of just an arbitrary number.
But you’ve set a challenge, you can’t wimp out now.
But I have to bear in mind the effects. I’ll be fencing for 3 hours tomorrow,
And I am 41 you know.
You’ve read your Sartre. You are what you decide. Are you going to decide to stop?
Ha! Am I going to decide to carry on, just because I daren’t decide not to?
At this point, I notice my feet are cold, because I’ve splashed through far too many puddles, and it’s blowing a chill wind. Motorcyclists have a horror of cold feet. Once they go cold, they take a lot of warming up.
Existentially, I’m now a certified wimp. I didn’t do the 25 miles, or even the 20… or the 15…
And, to serve me right, it looks like my computer’s lost the “score” for the ride. I know I stopped at 11.7 miles after 1:12, so I guess I did about 12.5 miles in around 1:20. Not a bad ride, but I really wasn’t up for it tonight.